'Lord of the Rings' litter box lets your cat poop in Middle-earth - CNET
Hollywood prop maker Tim Baker and team build an amazing Hobbit-hole litter box and Tower of Sauron cat scratching post for a super fan and his kitties.
A Day in the Life of a Kiva Robot
Kiva Systems founder and CEO Mick Mountz narrates a play-by-play video of how Kiva robots automate a warehouse environment. Complete video available for free...
The Weekender: on Christmas, Krampus, and glass cliffs
Good morning, and welcome back to The Weekender. Our weekend journey is just now starting, so thank you for choosing us for your travels. As you may recall, this was the 51st week of the year 2014 on the planet known colloquially as Earth, otherwise known as Terra in other inhabited star systems. It was not a quiet week, as you might imagine. Below you'll find your itinerary, carefully crafted for your pleasure; stories from the week passed and recommendations for the days ahead. Now. Please sit back and relax as we take you on a journey through time and space. You might hear a slight buzzing in your ears as we get started.
Bitcoin Promoter Gets 2 Years for Silk Road Money Laundering
Charlie Shrem, the former Bitcoin Foundation
Inc. executive who pleaded guilty to charges tied to the illicit
online bazaar “Silk Road,” was sentenced to two years in
prison by a judge who rejected his bid to remain free and
“change the world.”
'The Interview' Twitter and Facebook accounts have been scrubbed
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Assassin's Creed director's next game is 'historical action'
Former Assassin's Creed series Creative Director Patrice Desilets discussed the direction of his upcoming game this week. The game will be of the third-person, "historical-action-survival" variety, as noted in a press release found after the break. Desilets launched Panache Digital Games just over one month ago, a Montreal-based studio consisting of "industry veterans that got together to tell stories that we feel are original and cool," according to the developer's website .
"Indeed AAA Games, I believe in them," Desilets added. "I believe wholeheartedly that this medium we call 'video games' can be a positive force for change in our society and that AAA quality gaming experiences have unmatched strength to achieve this." The statement complements Panache's mission, per its website: "We make AAA quality third-person action-adventure games, with a narrative twist. We're not a 'me-too' company. We don't do trendy game models or content." To thank " first and beloved supporters" that showed immediate interest in Panache's ambitions, Desilets said the team decided to give those fans a "full copy" of its next game.
The Power of Metaphor
“As CIOs, we need to demystify IT,” says Malini Balakrishnan, CIO of Building Materials Holdings Corporation (BMC), a provider of building materials and construction services. “When current business executives were coming up through the ranks, technology was not as pervasive as it is today so they were able to achieve success without having an understanding of it. Today, the reality is much different. As CIO, you don’t want to preach to them, because that is a sure way to turn them off. You want to capture their interest by using analogies that they can identify with and that remind them of the challenges they face in their own business.”
North Korea proposes a 'joint investigation' with US to prove its innocence in Sony hack
North Korea is continuing to deny any involvement with the devastating cyber attack on Sony Pictures. But the entire affair just got even stranger: foreign ministry officials have announced through the government's state-run news agency that "we propose a joint investigation with [the US] into this incident." The government then warned that there will be "grave consequences" if the US continues its "groundless slander" of North Korea and rejects its proposal of a joint investigation. Officials also added, "Without resorting to such tortures as were used by the CIA, we have means to prove that this incident has nothing to do with us."
U.S. Deals Major Blow to Chinese Solar Panel Manufacturers
If Germany's Solar World could compete in the market place without whining to Congress, this would never have been an issue. If where the product is made is THE factor, then Apple iPhones and all other Apple products should be tariffed. As well as oil from foreign countries. What has happened is that U.S. consumers have been given a gift of inexpensive solar panels for their systems. No different then EXXON getting special tax breaks, incentives and cheap commodity leases. The DOC really screwed the pooch on this one. Last word to Solar World. If you were the last solar manufacturer in the country, I wouldn't buy from you! I reward only those that know how to deliver a product without crying for help because you are incompetent.
BBC Says Apple Suppliers Continue to Violate Labor Standards
A BBC documentary accuses Apple of breaking promises to improve working conditions at its suppliers, but Apple says it continues to make progress on a difficult issue.
The Onion’s 10 Greatest Gags About Google
“America’s Finest News Source,” better known as The Onion, has been poking fun at Google for more than a decade. Here are 10 of what we believe are its better efforts.
Apple Isn't the Only One to Blame for Smartphone Labor Abuses | WIRED
But while abuses among Apple suppliers understandably command the most attention, to focus on Apple alone frames the problem too narrowly. Apple is not the only company that benefits from a system where cost-saving efficiencies come with a human toll. And we consumers are more than happy when those savings get passed down to us.
Green Man Gaming holiday sale: Alien: Isolation, Evil Within
Today marks the start of Green Man Gaming's annual Green Grogre holiday sale, where the digital games retailer offers hefty discounts on a wide range of games, both recent and not so recent.
Highlights of the sale include intergalactic survival horror gem Alien: Isolation at $25, while the terrestrial horror of The Evil Within is priced at $20.39 and sizable strategy hit Total War: Rome 2 Emperor Edition is $14.98. If buying one game at a time seems terribly inefficient, you can choose from either the massive Half-Life Complete Edition compilation or the Tomb Raider Franchise compilation. Both have received 75 percent discounts.
The Green Grogre holiday sale is scheduled to run until January 2. Prospective buyers should check the site regularly, as Green Man Gaming plans to add new discounts each day.
[Image: Green Man Gaming]
The Cheapest Generation
In some respects, Millennials’ residential aspirations appear to be changing just as significantly as their driving habits—indeed, the two may be related. The old cul-de-sacs of Revolutionary Road and Desperate Housewives have fallen out of favor with Generation Y. Rising instead are both city centers and what some developers call “urban light”—denser suburbs that revolve around a walkable town center. “People are very eager to create a life that blends the best features of the American suburb—schools still being the primary, although not the only, draw—and urbanity,” says Adam Ducker, a managing director at the real-estate consultancy RCLCO. These are places like Culver City, California, and Evanston, Illinois, where residents can stroll among shops and restaurants or hop on public transportation. Such small cities and town centers lend themselves to tighter, smaller housing developments, whether apartments in the middle of town, or small houses a five-minute drive away. An RCLCO survey from 2007 found that 43 percent of Gen‑Yers would prefer to live in a close-in suburb, where both the houses and the need for a car are smaller.
You can now control your Nest thermostat with voice
Nest thermostat owners with Android or iOS smartphones are getting a treat today: Google has enabled Nest thermostat control within the Google app, letting you change the temperature with just your voice. Android Police reports that standard commands such as "OK Google, change temperature to," "set Nest to," "turn the thermostat to," and others followed by a numerical degree will adjust the system. Presumably, voice commands through an Android Wear smartwatch will also let you change the temperature in your home. Android Police also says that Google Now will display cards when the system adjusts itself automatically. Droid-Life first reported that this functionality was close to launch late last week.
The Best Gaming PCs and Hardware of 2014
It's the fastest single-GPU card available today. It runs incredibly cool and sips power to boot. How low? You can run the GeForce GTX 980 on as little as a 500-watt power supply. Throw in Nvidia's full suite of outstanding GeForce Experience utilities and you get a Charlie Sheen "winning" kind of card, but without the career-wrecking benders. The card is also the first to feature HDMI 2.0 that we've seen and will comfortably handle all gaming at 1080p and even work well for most gaming at 2560x1600 too.
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I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much
Stella Young is a comedian and journalist who happens to go about her day in a wheelchair — a fact that doesn’t, she’d like to make clear, automatically turn her into a noble inspiration to all humanity. In this very funny talk, Young breaks down society's habit of turning disabled people into “inspiration porn.”
I am the son of a terrorist. Here's how I chose peace.
If you’re raised on dogma and hate, can you choose a different path? Zak Ebrahim was just seven years old when his father helped plan the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. His story is shocking, powerful and, ultimately, inspiring.
Violence against women—it's a men's issue
Domestic violence and sexual abuse are often called "women’s issues.” But in this bold, blunt talk, Jackson Katz points out that these are intrinsically men’s issues — and shows how these violent behaviors are tied to definitions of manhood. A clarion call for us all — women and men — to call out unacceptable behavior and be leaders of change.
3 things I learned while my plane crashed
Ric Elias had a front-row seat on Flight 1549, the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson River in New York in January 2009. What went through his mind as the doomed plane went down? At TED, he tells his story publicly for the first time.
The creator of Minecraft just outbid Beyoncé and Jay Z on this $70 million megamansion
That $70 million includes everything currently in the house from furniture to artwork to an 18-foot onyx dining room — "cases of Dom Perignon were part of the deal." It's apparently the highest price ever paid for a house in Beverly Hills, which isn't exactly known for frugal living. It's also less than 3 percent of Minecraft's price tag.
Half of Dr. Oz’s medical advice is baseless or wrong, study says
And now, his work has come under even greater scrutiny in the British Medical Journal, which on Wednesday published a study analyzing Oz’s claims along with those made on another medical talk show. What they found wasn’t reassuring. The researchers, led by Christina Korownyk of the University of Alberta, charged medical research either didn’t substantiate — or flat out contradicted — more than half of Oz’s recommendations. “Recommendations made on medical talk shows often lack adequate information on specific benefits or the magnitude of the effects of these benefits,” the article said . “… The public should be skeptical about recommendations made on medical talk shows.”
The Tale of Studio Ghibli
STUDIO GHIBLI, the animation studio behind the Oscar-winning feature film “Spirited Away”, has frequently been described as Japan’s answer to Disney. It’s perhaps closer to the truth to call it Japan’s antidote to Disney. Studio Ghibli’s lush, hand-drawn, 2-D animation, disregard for Hollywood narrative formulae and guiding philosophy—that animated films can be for grown-ups—are sadly foreign concepts in the paradigm of modern animation. This is the studio that released the whimsical cinematic lullaby “My Neighbour Totoro” on the same bill as “Grave of the Fireflies”, a devastating second-world-war drama that Roger Ebert called the most realistic animated film he’d ever seen, not because of how it looked, but how it felt.
Let’s try emotional correctness
It's time for liberals and conservatives to transcend their political differences and really listen to each other, says political pundit Sally Kohn. In this optimistic talk, Kohn shares what she learned as a progressive lesbian talking head on Fox News. It’s not about political correctness, she says, but rather, emotional correctness. (Contains profanity.)
7 talks on the struggle of mental health
To all appearances, Eleanor Longden was just like every other student, heading to college full of promise and without a care in the world. That was until the voices in her head started talking. Initially innocuous, these internal narrators became increasingly antagonistic and dictatorial, turning her life into a living nightmare. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, hospitalized, drugged, Longden was discarded by a system that didn't know how to help her. Longden tells the moving tale of her years-long journey back to mental health, and makes the case that it was through learning to listen to her voices that she was able to survive.
Dr. Dreidel is the dreidel that beats all others
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Grand Theft Auto 5 Online Heists (Finally) Revealed - IGN
Another thing that’s changed since the beginning was how we integrated each player into the mission objectives. The DNA for Heists goes as far back as some of our favourite Vice City missions, but there have been standout missions through San Andreas and of course Grand Theft Auto IV and V that inspired us. However, those were all single player missions, and our initial attempts at Heists turned out to be a lot of fun for one or two players while other players were getting left on the sidelines. The more we developed and really pushed the concept, the more we worked to make each of the four players feel integral to the mission. It meant rethinking absolutely everything – and rebuilding it from the ground up on several occasions – but it also massively improved each mission’s replayability as you have the chance to go back and switch roles to experience completely different sides of the same mission.
The psychology of evil
Philip Zimbardo knows how easy it is for nice people to turn bad. In this talk, he shares insights and graphic unseen photos from the Abu Ghraib trials. Then he talks about the flip side: how easy it is to be a hero, and how we can rise to the challenge.
Zuckerberg says Facebook is 'thinking' about the demand for a dislike button
Zuckerberg acknowledged that the company knows that many people think the “like” sentiment is not appropriate for posts such as when someone is sick. But he seemed to quickly backtrack. “The like button is valuable because it’s a quick way to share a positive sentiment,” Zuckerberg said. “Some people have asked for a dislike button so they can say something isn’t good, and we’re not going to do that. I don’t think that’s good for the community.”
Re-engineering mosquitos to fight disease
In a single year, there are 200-300 million cases of malaria and 50-100 million cases of dengue fever worldwide. So: Why haven’t we found a way to effectively kill mosquitos yet? Hadyn Parry presents a fascinating solution: genetically engineering male mosquitos to make them sterile, and releasing the insects into the wild, to cut down on disease-carrying species.
Researchers 'Averaged' The Faces Of 400 CEOs — And The Results Say A Lot About Race In Business
to "average" the faces of 400 executives in 10 different industries, from nonprofits to entertainment to transportation. They also averaged the age and income of CEOs in each industry.
External traffic to Spanish news sites plummets after Google move
Josh Schwartz, the chief data scientist at Chartbeat, said the company doesn’t track every Spanish news site or publisher, but it has enough data on them as a group to indicate just how dramatic the traffic decline was. The service tracks about 50 sites, he said, ranging from small media outlets to the largest newspaper publishers, and looking at the data shows “a pretty massive difference” in traffic compared to a similar day before the removal. On average the drop is between 10 and 15 percent (Chartbeat only includes traffic from clients who have consented to have their anonymized data used).
Kinja is in read-only mode. We are working to restore service.
Engineer uses tape measure to beat speeding ticket - CNET
A retired UK engineer is reportedly convinced he wasn't speeding, despite getting a ticket generated by a speed camera. So he gets on his hands and knees to prove white lines on the road are incorrectly spaced.
Buffett Reminds His Top Managers: Reputation Is Everything
Generally, the managers operate with a large degree of autonomy, and Mr. Buffett says elsewhere in the letter that they can “talk to me about what is going on as little or as much as you wish.” But Mr. Buffett himself takes responsibility for keeping a roster of potential replacements for each of the leaders of Berkshire’s far-flung operations.
Sean Parker Pledges $24 Million Toward A Stanford Allergy Research Center In His Name
Well-known tech billionaire Sean Parker suffers from asthma and allergies so severe that he doesn’t know how many times he’s landed in the emergency room just for accidentally eating something that touched a peanut. He tells TechCrunch that at least 14 of those visits have happened since he’s been with his wife. “Nuts, avocados, shellfish, all of it. I was in the ICU for three weeks of my senior year,” he says.
Wolves and lynx and bears, oh my! Europe's conservation win
Large, carnivorous predators in Europe are doing pretty well for themselves. Europe's populations of wolves, brown bears, wolverines, and lynx have recovered from a previous decline — in fact, their numbers have risen to near-record highs, according to a study published in Science today. The recovery may be due to Europe's animal conservation approach — an approach that allows for the presence of large predators among human populations, instead isolating them in state parks and conservation areas the way North America does, researchers said.
MOOCs Aren’t Revolutionizing College, but They’re Not a Failure | MIT Technology Review
A few years ago, the most enthusiastic advocates of MOOCs believed that these “massive open online courses” stood poised to overturn the century-old model of higher education. Their interactive technology promised to deliver top-tier teaching from institutions like Harvard, Stanford, and MIT, not just to a few hundred students in a lecture hall on ivy-draped campuses, but free via the Internet to thousands or even millions around the world. At long last, there appeared to be a solution to the problem of “scaling up” higher education: if it were delivered more efficiently, the relentless cost increases might finally be rolled back. Some wondered whether MOOCs would merely transform the existing system or blow it up entirely. Computer scientist Sebastian Thrun, cofounder of the MOOC provider Udacity, predicted that in 50 years, 10 institutions would be responsible for delivering higher education.
Watch an Annotated Version of Colbert’s Farewell Song and See Who All Those People Were
Thursday night’s finale of The Colbert Report practically begged for it, so here it is: the definitive video annotation of everyone who appeared during the final sing-along to “We’ll Meet Again.”
Trinket Everyday Carry Contest
Trinket Pro is an incredible platform for building tiny projects. Which is exactly why we've picked it for our next contest. We're looking for pocketable projects which you'd carry around with you every day. The projects should be useful, but we're taking a very broad definition of useful here. Anything from tools, to wearables, to jewelry and beyond will be acceptable for the contest.
The coming crisis in antibiotics
Antibiotic drugs save lives. But we simply use them too much — and often for non-lifesaving purposes, like treating the flu and even raising cheaper chickens. The result, says researcher Ramanan Laxminarayan, is that the drugs will stop working for everyone, as the bacteria they target grow more and more resistant. He calls on all of us (patients and doctors alike) to think of antibiotics — and their ongoing effectiveness — as a finite resource, and to think twice before we tap into it. It’s a sobering look at how global medical trends can strike home.
Meet the Dogged Researchers Who Try to Unmask Haters Online | MIT Technology Review
Fredriksson is a member of a generation of Swedes known as “Generation 64,” who grew up tinkering with Commodore 64s in the 1980s and went on to revolutionize Sweden’s IT industry. His upbringing also coincided with the rise of a neo-Nazi movement in the 1990s, when he was a teenage punk rocker. He and his friends constantly clashed with a gang of skinheads in his small hometown in southern Sweden. “I was very interested in politics. I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to do politics I’d have to deal with the Nazi threat in some way,” he says. He joined the controversial leftist group Antifascistisk Aktion (AFA), which openly endorses the use of violence against neo-Nazis. In 2006 he was sentenced to community service for beating a man during a fight between a group of neo-Nazis and antiracists. “He said it was me. It actually wasn’t, but it just as well could have been,” Fredriksson says. He says he eventually came to believe that violence is wrong, and today his weapon of choice is information, not his fists. He is more interested in understanding hate than destroying it, although he wouldn’t mind if one led to the other.
Why a good book is a secret door
Childhood is surreal. Why shouldn't children's books be? In this whimsical talk, award-winning author Mac Barnett speaks about writing that escapes the page, art as a doorway to wonder — and what real kids say to a fictional whale.
Watch a man control two robotic prosthetic arms with his mind
Thanks to a neural surgery and robotic technology, a man in Colorado named Les Baugh is the first person to gain the ability to control two shoulder-level robotic arms with his mind. The limbs and the technology that powers them were developed by Johns Hopkins University.
Khan Academy founder has two big ideas for overhauling higher education in the sciences
Soft-spoken education revolutionary Sal Khan has a few ideas for how to radically overhaul higher education. First, create a universal degree that’s comparable to a Stanford degree, and second, transform the college transcript into a portfolio of things that students have actually created.
Tech Toys to Make Children Smarter
Some of the smartest toys of 2014 are about building technology, not just consuming it. There’s Kano, a $150 kit for piecing together a tiny computer that teaches programming. Modular Robotics makes two kinds of kits priced $150 and up, called Cubelets and Moss, for creating small robots that respond to their surroundings. And a company called LittleBits sells kits starting at $100 to make fun machines that snap together.
Duet turned my old iPad into a fast MacBook display
I’ve been a daily iPad-as-secondary-display user for years. My go-to app had always been Air Display (and then Air Display 2). That just changed. For the same price as Air Display 2 I’m able to ditch the unstable Wi-Fi connection typical to these remote display apps and extend my workspace over an old 30-pin USB cable. That's given new life to my three-year-old MacBook Air and three-year-old iPad 2. No stutters, no lag, and it's surprisingly robust enough to support video playback. Duet says its app was developed by a team of ex-Apple engineers, and it definitely seems to benefit from this expertise.
Your brain on improv
Musician and researcher Charles Limb wondered how the brain works during musical improvisation — so he put jazz musicians and rappers in an fMRI to find out. What he and his team found has deep implications for our understanding of creativity of all kinds.
(Filmed at TEDxMidAtlantic.)
REVEALED: The Demographic Trends For Every Social Network
BII The demographics of who's on what social network are shifting — older social networks are reaching maturity, while newer social messaging apps are gaining younger users fast.
Absurd Creature of the Week: The World's Goofiest-Looking Spider Is Actually a Brutal Ninja | WIRED
Just ask the bizarre assassin spiders of Australia, South America, and Madagascar, with their craning necks and enormous jaws and general what-in-the-what-now appearance. These beauties (also known appropriately enough as pelican spiders) hunt other spiders, and by deploying their jaws out 90 degrees from their necks, they can impale prey, inject venom, and let them dangle there to die, all without getting bitten themselves. It’s a bit like the school bully holding a nerd at arm’s-length while the poor kid swings hopelessly at the air.